A few weeks ago, just before our worship gathering started, our pastor pulled a few of us aside to pray. As we gathered together (properly masked and socially distanced—don’t worry, guys), he led us with a few devotional thoughts before we prayed.
I must admit his words took me aback.
He said, “The greatest need of every person who will walk through the churches’ doors today or be a part of our worship service virtually is the same. I know because it’s the greatest need that each of us bring with us today as we stand here. Each and every person is desperate for mercy, from the Lord and from us.”
I had expected a sports-like huddle with some sort of inspirational battle cry—like Let’s get after it. Go, team!—a ramp up to the charge ahead.
But his words disarmed me and cut to the heart of what I think many of us are feeling in this time of worldwide crisis. Honestly it may be what we’ve felt all along, though buried beneath the sheen of platitudes and performance.
We need mercy.
We find ourselves striving for strength, to feel safe and in control because so much is legitimately out of our control. But deep down, more than we need to be strong or “power through” to make something happen, we desperately need the tenderness and safety that comes from the mercy of God and the second-hand grace that God can give to us through our brothers and sisters in the family of faith. The mercy that ministers to the frailties that we all carry and pushes back the fear that so easily encroaches in our hearts and minds these days.
In a world where we all feel so stretched thin—I don’t know one person who is not feeling the weight of everything happening around us—God’s presence and grace are our only true refuge, the only place where we can find Someone who loves us entirely and generously gives from unlimited storehouses, both spiritual and physical.
Receive mercy from Him.
I was so helped by the way Dane Ortlund describes this in his book Gentle and Lowly. He says, “[Jesus] wants us to draw on his grace and mercy because it is who he is. He drew near to us in the incarnation so that his joy and ours could rise and fall together—his in giving mercy, ours in receiving it” (Gentle and Lowly, p. 37).
Ortlund goes on to say, “When you come to Christ for mercy and love and help in your anguish and perplexity and sinfulness, you are going with the flow of his own deepest wishes, not against them. … Christ’s heart is not drained by our coming to him; his heart is filled up all the more by our coming to him” (p. 38).
That’s great news for those of us who feel frayed and worn down, who hear the call to extend kindness and mercy and grace almost as if it were adding a weighty onus around our necks—another need to be attended to, another “opportunity” to be stretched when we are already overextended.
The call of Christ is to first receive mercy and kindness in abundance from Him. To have your cup filled. To keep your heart open to God in the midst of the struggle and to bring your need to God—only to be welcomed as a favored child would be, one whose attentive father delights in you, skinned knees and all.
Dear friend, please go to God and ask for mercy. He longs to give it to you. He wants to give you rest and life in His ways.
Then out of that abundance, share that mercy with the people around you.
Share His mercy with others.
We have a unique chance to show the world “the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus” (Philippians 3:8) in the way that we talk about His character and follow-through in this season. We get to help the world see that God is working amidst the seeming chaos.
I can think of several older saints in the faith whom I’ve seen walk through difficult days with genuine happiness and joy. Sure, they’re affected by what’s happening; yet they remain unshaken by the hardships of life because of who God is.
It dawned on me one day: they are (more than) OK despite the evident realities of their circumstances because they are uncompromisingly and unabashedly confident in God’s love and care for them. Truly, nothing is more challenging and instructive to me than watching a child of God walk in complete assurance that God is who He says He is and that He will take care of her.
Child of God, He is for you and He loves you. He’s going to take care of you.
Depend on Him.
In this crazy season, may we be found faithful witnesses to our good Father’s character.
Psalm 33 is a call to praise. It reminds us of who God is and who He will be for us. Let’s read a few verses from the psalm:
The Lord looks down from heaven;
he observes everyone.
He gazes on all the inhabitants of the earth
from his dwelling place.
He forms the hearts of them all;
he considers all their works.
A king is not saved by a large army;
a warrior will not be rescued by great strength.
The horse is a false hope for safety;
it provides no escape by its great power.
But look, the Lord keeps his eye on those who fear him—
those who depend on his faithful love
to rescue them from death
and to keep them alive in famine.
We wait for the Lord;
he is our help and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in him
because we trust in his holy name.
May your faithful love rest on us, Lord,
for we put our hope in you.
– Psalm 33:13-22 (CSB)
As those who are “[dependent] on His faithful love,” let’s ask God to help us trust Him and His ways more than what seems right to our own eyes.
Father, please help us to remember who You are, grow more and more confident in Your kindness toward us, and show the rest of the world the joy that comes from being loved and cared for by You. Amen.